Collaboration with the K12 sector, while ubiquitous through much of informal science education, is sometimes seen as secondary to, or even a distraction from, our main efforts to engage the public with science. But formal-informal collaborations are more than add-ons to the work of ISE. They are a critical part of organizational strategies for public engagement with science. Indeed, failing to develop strategic and sustained relationships with schools, teachers, and students, while at the same time attempting to develop public engagement with science, is like trying to fill a bath without closing the drain. That's the conclusion of a CAISE Inquiry Group that recently completed its study of collaborations between formal and informal science education institutions. By taking advantage of "the particular affordances and strengths of different institutional types," the authors suggest, formal-informal collaborations can "meet shared goals of making science learning more accessible and compelling to young people in our communities."
Led by Bronwyn Bevan of the Exploratorium’s Center for Informal Learning and Schools, the CAISE Inquiry Group began work during a July 2008 ISE Summit organized by CAISE. Their examination of what the authors call "the hybrid nature of formal-informal collaborations" draws on relevant theoretical perspectives and a series of case studies to highlight ways in which the affordances of formal and informal settings can be combined and leveraged to create rich, compelling, authentic, and engaging science that can be systematically developed over time and settings.
One example of such a collaboration is the Exploratorium's Novice Teacher Program, founded in 1999 with funding from the National Science Foundation. Here, novice teachers build fancarts during a summer workshop on Newton's Laws.
To read the full report, download PDF, below.
Photo by Linda Shore